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The Question

I’m on maternity leave and I’m planning to return to work in a few months. I recently received an unsolicited job offer from a competing company. I would prefer to go back to my current employer because I like my job and my coworkers, but I found out the person who was filling the maternity leave contract was laid off because of the coronavirus. So, there isn’t much certainty about what things will look like in a few months.

I’d like to have a meeting and find out what’s being offered by the competitor. In a perfect world, my current employer is able to match or beat what’s being offered. How should I navigate this situation?

The First Answer

Carine Lacroix, founder and CEO of human resources consulting firm Reneshone Corp., Oakville, Ont.

There is no certainty for any job, but generally, employment is protected for employees returning from maternity leave. While the premature termination of the person back-filling your position could have been triggered by COVID-19, other factors may be involved and only your employer knows the full picture. The Canadian Human Rights Commission says “employees on maternity leave should be informed of any changes to their jobs.” So, I recommend reaching out directly to your employer.

It’s your right to see what’s offered by your employer’s competitor but review the employment contract with your employer first. Is there any non-competition clause in it?

What matters most when considering a change of job and employer is being clear about what you want and value. Consider these questions:

  • Aside from the unexpected dismissal of your replacement, are there other concerns with your employer?
  • In addition to liking your job and coworkers, what other things do you like about working there? Does your employer provide the things you value most?
  • What is the ideal culture of an organization for you? Does it exist with your employer?
  • As for compensation, what do you feel you deserve? Are you aware of the pay range for this new job offer and have you talked about an increase with your employer?

Answer these questions to see whether you’re satisfied with your employer. If not, perhaps it’s time for something new. But if it’s only about money, speak with your employer. You might be surprised.

The Second Answer

Kathryn Meisner, career coach, Toronto

Congratulations on being offered a new opportunity. Before you go any further, pause and ask yourself what you want. Yes, consider total compensation but also get specific regarding non-financial compensation, including what’s important to you in a role and a workplace (especially as a mom returning to work during a pandemic).

Some key strategies for your situation:

  • Ask specific questions about the new role and compensation based on what’s important to you. You need to know exactly what you’re being offered before you can negotiate with them or your current employer.
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate with the new company. They approached you, which means you most likely have more bargaining power.
  • Dig deep. Do as much research as possible about the new company. Use the trusty internet but also try to talk to people who currently or previously worked there.
  • For both companies, find out their approach to working during COVID-19. What policies do they have in place to support parents? Will they be returning to the office soon, if at all? How will they ensure the safety of employees?

If it turns out that neither option is close to giving you what you want, that's a sign to start searching for a totally new opportunity.

Even if you don’t take the new job or aren’t able to negotiate better compensation at your current company, you can expand your network, learn more about other companies and practise skills such as negotiation and advocating for yourself.

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